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Traditions

I know I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time. I’ve done many things that would fall under the category of “tradition” in this time, whether that was an Orange Order funeral, anything during the holidays, or even worship every Sunday. For me, it was really easy to see the negative side of tradition, but I decided to avoid writing until I saw something positive.

I have always been prone to think of tradition as exclusionary and even discriminatory. For example, the Orange Order, a pro-protestant organization has conducted anti-Catholic actions in its past and doesn’t allow Catholic members. It’s very easy to then generalize this with other traditions and see all traditions in the same light as excluding others. Even the most innocent of holiday traditions can exclude others in some way.

I am grateful for the way my perspective has expanded on this. Many people at Tron St. Mary’s invited me to various activities over the holidays and allowed me to see that traditions can also be a beautiful expression of community.

The important thing about tradition is that it still reflects the community and is conducted in a way that is inclusive and welcoming.

As an example, this Saturday Tron St. Mary’s is hosting a hootenanny (think variety show + potluck I think?) for the various churches and communities hosting the three YAVs in Glasgow. This an event that is an expression of a new community created through the connection created through the three YAVs serving in these placements.

Needless to say, my view is not set on this topic and I would welcome any responses on this reflection.

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Volunteering?

I am very thankful and feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity to volunteer for a year, and I realize that this is a rare opportunity not available or realistically feasible for most people. Over the past few months I’ve done a lot of thinking about what it means to be a volunteer. It’s a very strange state of limbo between participating and being a member of staff. Previous to this year, I thought of volunteering as a thing someone could do for a few hours on the weekend for events that might need a few extra hands. In that situation, the distinction is pretty clear. That person is filling a temporary role. However, being in Tron St. Mary’s for a few months that line has started to blur. For example, being in staff meetings and such is not something I had considered as a responsibility of volunteers in my concept of volunteering.

As another tangent, I was talking with a community member the other day about how when asked “what do you do?” most people will respond with what their occupation is and how they make money (Same goes for “how do you make a living?”). After taking a few steps back it seems strange that our work might seem like the thing that defines us the most.

At this point, I would say that volunteering is different than working because there is less of a focus on getting things done and more of a focus on connecting with the people in the community. Although getting tasks done is very important, I think the relational side is often overlooked. In Tron St. Mary’s many of the activities in the church are most impactful because they bring people together in community.

Tea at Tron St. Mary’s

I’m going to share with you a struggle that I have had over the past few weeks: Should I help or not? Before these past few weeks the answer to this question was “absolutely, of course”, but this isn’t as clear cut for me anymore.

One of the big reasons I say that is due to a realization that I have had over my many times having tea at Tron St. Mary’s Parish Church. My tendency, as you could probably guess from my previous paragraph, is to try pitch in with clearing the dishes before anyone else gets up to do it. What I had not thought about are the implications of this. By carrying off all of the dishes I was exiting any discussion at the table and, by extension, separating myself from the community of that discussion. I have been reflecting over the past weeks whether it’s better that I, as new person in this community, remain engaged in the conversations around the table or clear it to keep everyone from getting up.

The same sort of theme resonates with gifts as well. I, for one, have always found it very difficult to receive gifts without a clear and immediate way of reciprocating it to the other person. I can’t help but ask myself if that’s because there’s an unspoken power dynamic at play when someone gives you a gift and you aren’t able to return the favor. Also, is it really a gift if there’s an expectation of reciprocity?That seems to me to be more like a trade.

This is not to say that helping others and giving gifts doesn’t have its place and you should never do those things. Rather this is to stress the importance of considering how often you try to help and whether you are able to receive someone else’s help with the same eagerness with which you give it.

Anyway, welcome to the world of my brain when having a cup of tea or coffee each day at Tron St. Mary’s.

About me

My name is Matthew Begley. I am from Black Mountain, North Carolina, and I am 22 years old. I graduated from Davidson College this past spring with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and majored in Music as well. I am looking forward to spending this next year discerning my call, while engaging purposefully with God’s children in Scotland. I understand that this period of service will be a challenging experience. I am grateful for this opportunity to broaden the limits of my world perspective and to learn much from living with fellow volunteers and working alongside the people in this distinctive community. I am hoping to use the gifts with which I have been blessed and the skills I have developed to facilitate the work of the Spirit through music and interpersonal connections.